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Muscicapa adusta (African dusky flycatcher) 

DonkervlieŽvanger [Afrikaans]; Unomaphelana [Xhosa]; Kaapse vliegenvanger [Dutch]; Gobemouche sombre [French]; Dunkelschnšpper [German]; Papa-moscas-sombrio [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Muscicapidae > Genus: Muscicapa

Muscicapa adusta (African dusky flycatcher)

African dusky flycatcher, Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

African dusky flycatcher, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Although it has in isolated population in Cameroon, the bulk of its distribution lies from Ethiopia through Kenya and Tanzania to Zambia, southern DRC and southern Africa. Here it is common in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland, with a more scarce population in Zimbabwe (although common in the eastern highlands). It generally prefers fairly dense evergreen vegetation, such as clearings and edges of Afromontane and coastal lowland forest, gardens and parks, but also occurring in valley bushveld and floodplain woodland along the Zambezi River. It occasionally occupies miombo (Brachystegia and alien tree strands with Eucalyptus, pines (Pinus), and wattles (Acacia), especially on the border with fynbos.

Distribution of African dusky flycatcher in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of Accipiter rufiventris (Rufous-chested sparrowhawk) in the Western Cape.

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the following birds:

Movements and migrations

Resident in Zimbabwe but partially migratory in South Africa, with birds moving east in Winter.


It mainly eats small flying insects, doing most of its foraging from a low branch, from which it hawks prey aerially and occasionally pounces on insects on the ground. It sometimes joins mixed-species foraging flocks, also using sheep and Bushbuck (Tragephalus scriptus) as perches, catching the insects they flush while moving around. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Insects
    • Coleoptera (beetles)
    • syrphid wasps
    • midges
    • noctuid moths and their caterpillars
    • aphids
  • Fruit
    • Vepris lanceolata (White-ironwood)
    • Morus (mulberries)


  • Both sexes construct the nest in up to 22 days, consisting of an untidy open cup, usually built of dead leaves, moss, grass, lichens, creepe tendrils, feathers and spider web and lined with more fine material, although it can be made entirely out of moss. It is typically placed in a cavity, such as in a pipe, behind peeling bark, in a rock crevice, among driftwood, in a dead tree stump or between the rafters of a thatched roof. It may use the nest of another bird, such as a Red-winged starling, barbet, Cape Weaver or a Cape canary.
  • Egg-laying season is from September-January, peaking from October-November.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 14-15 days, all the while fed by the male at the nest.
  • The chicks are mainly brooded by the female but fed by both sexes, leaving the nest after about 17, rarely 22 days. It usually rears two broods per breeding season, meaning that fledglings often leave after only 5 more days, so that the female can lay the next egg clutch.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.